Under former coach Dallas Jensen, the Gavilan College men’s basketball program has been one of the best in Northern California the last two years. Jensen took a job with College of the Sequoias approximately six weeks ago, leaving the Rams in a tough position to find a coach on short notice, right in the thick of the recruiting period. Turns out Gavilan didn’t have to look far to find its next coach; in fact, it only had to go down the bench to one of Jensen’s trusted assistants—his brother, Derek, who graduated from Gilroy High in 2008 and played a year each at Gavilan, San Jose City and BYU Hawaii. The Rams tabbed Derek as their next coach in the hopes that the program can sustain the excellence it has achieved the last couple of years.
“Derek’s understanding of the game, his attention to detail, and the relationships he has built with returning student-athletes as well as our recruits were important factors in our consideration,” Gavilan Dean of Kinesiology and Athletics Ron Hannon said in a press release. “We’re excited about having Derek continue what we’ve been building over the past two seasons within the men’s basketball program.”
It’s been a whirlwind process for Jensen ever since his brother took the Sequoias job. Derek, who served as an assistant on the team last season, before that was the Christopher High boys coach for two seasons.
“When I found out Dallas was leaving, I wasn’t sure what the future would hold for me,” he said. “So when Ron called me into his office (around three weeks ago), I honestly didn’t know what it would be for. We hadn’t talked about me being the head coach at all. When he called me in and offered me the position, I was stunned and shocked. I took the news back to my wife and told her, ‘Look, you ultimately are the one to make this call because you know how busy I’ll be as a head coach of a basketball team again.’ My wife was very supportive of it and knows it’s something I love to do. And she says I’m good at it, although she may be biased.”
Recruiting is the lifeblood for any college program, and despite the off-season coaching change, Derek said the Rams are charging full speed ahead.
“The good part about all this is I’ve been recruiting the entire time as well,” he said. “We continue to fill up our roster everyday, and continue to add a guy or two on a daily or weekly basis. Recruiting is going really, really well, and I think from here on out we’re going to do just fine.”
In the last two years, the Rams have gone a combined 51-8 in winning two Coast Conference South Division championships. Jensen said six players off last year’s team went on to transfer and earn full-ride scholarships, and he expects the program to maintain that prodigious number going forward.
“Our goals are very straightforward—championships and scholarships,” Jensen said. “It’s plan and simple for me. I got to make sure I bring in the right players and build the right culture, because that is what it’s going to win those championships. It’s building talent and the culture. As far as scholarships go, it’ll require the kids to take care of business in the classroom.
“And really our primary goal is to make sure these kids succeed academically and that we help them get the resources they need so they can move on to continue their academics at four-year schools. We follow their academics daily and make sure they get in front of the college coaches.”
Even though the Rams won’t return a single player who saw significant minutes last season, the cupboard is far from bare. They have several players who either saw action or took a gray shirt, including Taysean Nolan, Daemar Potts, Jason Gallo and Santiago Jimenez. Jensen also said he has several key newcomers coming in, including Kobe Ordonio, a combo guard who two seasons ago earned all-conference honorable mention honors while playing for Cabrillo College. Jensen was effusive in his praise for the former Monterey High standout.
“We clearly have high expectations for him,” Jensen said. “He is so dynamic and can beat you in every way. He can attack the rim and has an unlimited type of moves in his bag that allows him to finish over guys. He’s an amazing shooter from anywhere on the floor, and his range is limitless. He’s extremely quick, has a great handle and sees the floor well. I expect him to be one of the better guards in the entire state of California. He really is that special.”
Jensen also has Ordonio’s younger brother, Tahjae, entering the program as an incoming freshman. Derek and Dallas are not only brothers, but they’re best friends. The Jensen brothers talk everyday and see the game in similar ways as well.
“Dallas has been a huge help to me as a mentor, in teaching me a lot about recruiting in the college game,” Derek said. “One of the first things we did after I got the job was talk about when our teams would play each other.”
That will actually happen in the 2019-2020 season opener when Gavilan hosts Sequoias in what surely will be a rare sight: two brothers coaching against each other in a college game.
“We just couldn’t resist,” Derek said. “It’s going to be really fun beginning my coaching career at the college level against my brother, and hopefully, we crush them.”